*Update*: as reported by The Register, Brandon LeBlanc, a senior product manager on the Windows team has stated that "This was an experimental banner that was not intended to be published externally and was turned off". The rest of the report below will remain unchanged, but it does appear that we won't be getting ads in the Windows 11 file explorer any time soon.
Windows 11 is now showing adverts in File Explorer, which is an alarming development – though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before (more on that later) – albeit this is still in limited testing currently.
Some people will go mad if Microsoft starts adding ads in explorer. pic.twitter.com/rusnyrYyX2March 12, 2022
As you can see in the tweet, the advert for the company’s own product – Microsoft Editor – appears as a strip along the top of an open folder window, just above where the contents of the folder are displayed.
The promotional snippet reads: “Write with confidence across documents, email, and the web with advanced writing suggestions from Microsoft Editor.” There’s also a button you can click to ‘Learn More’ about Editor, an AI-driven service that aims to brush up your writing style, grammar and spelling.
Note that these ads are just in testing, and Bleeping Computer could not find any adverts in File Explorer when it went hunting for them, indicating that Microsoft has likely rolled this out to a very limited amount of Windows 11 testers to begin with. It’s not surprising to see a tentative approach with this one, of course.
Analysis: Are we really looking down this road again?
Many folks are unhappy to see this, which again is unsurprising, but we should make it clear upfront that as noted, this is just in limited testing right now. The caution around this is something of a positive sign, at least, and going by the negative feedback which is already airing on Twitter (and elsewhere), Microsoft may well give this ‘feature’ the chop before it makes the release version of Windows 11.
Let’s hope so, because those of you with longer memories may recall that Microsoft has been down this road before, and it didn’t stick with File Explorer ads in that case. This was back in early 2017 when we witnessed ads for OneDrive pop up in Windows 10 with the same positioning in folders, although in that case, the adverts were even larger and more annoying.
While this is just a thin strip of an ad this time around, it’s still an unwelcome intrusion mainly because File Explorer is such a central element of the Windows interface. These are the very folders you’re working with on a daily basis (no doubt) on your desktop, and real estate is valuable in this window, so the last thing you want is an advert intruding on the fundamental experience of opening or copying files within Windows 11.
For us, this is about the worst way to deploy adverts in Windows – the most intrusive way to clutter up interface space with promotional activity. Not that anywhere is a particularly good place, of course, and really an operating system should be free of ads full-stop.
With the repeated attempts at this venture, it’s clear this is something Microsoft would like to get away with, but hopefully, the software giant will get the message which is being sent pretty loud and clear online right now, and abandon the idea of File Explorer adverts (again). We suspect Microsoft well knows the truth of what the broad reaction will be anyway, but then we do wonder why it’s even dipping a toe in these waters again, given that.
- Check out our guide to Windows 11 problems and how to fix them
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Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).